Stranger With a Camera (Film)

Stranger With a Camera

  •  Elizabeth Barret
  •  2000
  • Color IconColor
  •  60:01
  •  16 mm film
Film Description
During the 1960s, filmmakers from around the world came to Appalachia to document the dire conditions of the region’s poorest residents. Media focused the nation’s attention on economic justice and helped to lead to the declaration of the War on Poverty. But the use of the striking images of poverty also raised questions about whether media-makers with otherwise good intentions exploited and perpetuated long-held stereotypes of Appalachia. In 1967, this tension between media and community led to an extreme and tragic response, when Eastern Kentuckian Hobart Ison shot and killed Canadian filmmaker Hugh O’Connor, who was in the region to document conditions of poverty. Stranger with a Camera revisits this tragedy as a way to examine the relationship between media-makers and the communities they portray in their work. The documentary includes dozens of interviews with people involved in the tragedy — relatives of O’Connor and Ison, VISTA workers who were in Appalachia at the time of the killing, filmmakers, and journalists such as Calvin Trillin, who was filmed reading a passage of the 1969 New Yorker magazine article he wrote about the incident and from which the film draws its name. ”Even though the film focuses on an incident that occurred more than 30 years ago, Stranger with a Camera illuminates contemporary issues of identify and representation,” filmmaker Elizabeth Barret said. ”And it represents my own quest for understanding, not only understanding the tragedy of the killing, but my own responsibility to my community as a maker of images.”

Screenings & Festivals
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • San Francisco International Film Festival
  • Golden Gate Awards
  • Sundance Film Festival

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“A provocative moral inquiry but also a vivid portrait of a place and time.” — The New York Times
“A quietly incisive and sublime examination of media power … Top of the List.” — Booklist
“Stranger With A Camera is an exceptionally moving film about a people and place often misunderstood by the outside world.” — Sundance Film Festival
“One of the best documentaries ever made … way beyond everything that has ever been done on the issue of where images come from and how images are perceived from different perspectives.” — University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill